Literature has loved the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. And the people making up the English royal family. There are many stories of Robin Hood with the characters of Prince John and Richard the Lionhearted in the background as villain and savior respectively. Ivanhoe too, tells of this same time. Henry II's children have had a lasting impact on stories we read and see growing up here in America. We've had movies, plays and books about Richard and the Crusades. Cartoons about Robin Hood. The name “Prince John” brings up a very definite image.
For those familiar with them, the Brother Cadfael mystery books are set in a time several years before the events in The Lion in Winter. In the background of all these stories, Henry's mother, the Empress Maud ,fights over control of England. This was not a happy loving family.
The board game “Kingmaker” is based on the War of the Roses which pitted various Plantagenet (Henry II was the first Plantagenet) families against each other vying for the crown of England. And when those civil wars were done, the Plantagenets were gone and Henry Tudor (Henry VIII) was King of England. Which is actually one way to win the game. Control the Henry Tudor faction and make sure no one else wins.
Sometimes you can win just by not losing.
And now Tehachapi Community Theatre is bringing The Lion in Winter to the BeeKay Theater March 16th through the 31st. Some of you may remember the movies made of this play. Either the 1968 film with Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn, or maybe the 2003 version with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close.
The Lion in Winter is a challenging play for the actors. They portray historic figures in a brief moment that never happened. It is fiction after all. Like Robin Hood, Ivanhoe, and Brother Cadfael.
But fiction is meant to tell us about life. And I can easily imagine the same kind of power plays happening in a political family in more modern times. Perhaps in Massachusetts or Texas. Well, today they probably wouldn't have the threat of Death hanging over them for picking the wrong side, but other than that.
Power and the quest for it haven't changed. People still lust for it and try to control how it gets passed down. Perhaps the threat of violence in these struggles has diminished, no matter what you might think, the threat of violent death is much lower today than it was in the Twelfth Century. (See Steven Pinker's book The Better Angles of Our Nature.) But we're many years away from no longer struggling for control.
So come out and see The Lion in Winter at the BeeKay this month. The cast and crew have worked hard to bring this story to life.